Sunday, 8 September 2013

Black ancestors of the British Royal Family

Some of you may know I visited Buckingham Palace during 
its limited summer opening season.  
The palace was what you expect: 
high ceilings, intricate cornicing, and a vast art collection.

There was one painting hanging in the Green Drawing Room in particular that made an impression on me.
Via 
This portrait is of Queen Charlotte with 2 of her 15 children she eventually gave birth to 
who was married to King George III 
as in the mad one whose life was made into this movie.
In fact, Helen Mirren won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress playing this very queen.

I love history which by default is closely linked to ebbs and fortunes of the royal family. My favorite branch of the British Royals is the Stuarts; my unusual crush being King Charles the Second.
Via wikipedia
His great grandmother Mary, Queen of Scots has to be one of the most complicated and interesting women out there.  Don't take my word for it but how many women 500 years later still get talked about?
Via wikipedia
 But I am not a huge fan of the Hanoverian branch of the family who were known as of 1918 as the Windsors.  
I have my reasons...
Queen Victoria is probably my least favorite monarch.
Have you seen these documentaries? 
If not, believe me you will share my opinion.

There are usually royal jokes about inbreeding and cousins marrying cousins which resulted in genetic dispositions such as hemophilia.

But when I saw the portrait I was struck how mixed race 
she looked and perhaps the inbreeding was only a trend 
during Queen Victoria's era.

Upon researching this after my visit, I found indeed that this theory has been supported through not only her personal physician,
Dr. Hedley, stating in his diaries that she had "a true mulatto face".  But there was also an official poem penned to her during her marriage and coronation.

Descended from the warlike Vandal race,
She still preserves that title in her face.
Tho' shone their triumphs o'er Numidia's plain,
And and Alusian fields their name retain;
They but subdued the southern world with arms,
She conquers still with her triumphant charms,
O! born for rule, - to whose victorious brow
The greatest monarch of the north must bow.

Apparently, most portrait artists of the time had anglicized her features and lightened her skin color.  
The origins of her African roots is traced to Margarita de Castro de Sousa, a member of the black branch of the Portuguese royal family that married into the German royal families. 
But there were a few pictures that might have been closer to her true self.
Queen Charlotte Sophia
The portraits displaying the more African nature of her face was 
Sir Allan Ramsay.  He was married to the niece of 
Lord Mansfield who was the judge that in 1772 made the first of many legal decisions that led to the formal abolition years later.
Interestingly enough, it seems that the queen was not the only woman of black descent in society to have her portrait taken.

The Royal Family
Via
Sir Ramsay also painted this portrait of Lord Mansfield's black niece with a cousin.  These images were used in the Abolition movement against slavery both in Britain and in the United States.

Though slavery was only abolished in the UK after her death, 
Queen Charlotte is known to have been a supporter to the 
This was a movement to stop the use of all sugar derived from 
slave labour plantations.

She in her own way had involvement towards the cause which eventuated in the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

One of few portratis of Queen Phillippa Via
On a side note, Queen Caroline was not the first British black queen consort.  Apparently, Queen Phillipa who married King Edward II was also of both black and central Asian ancestry. Ironically her son and heir was called Edward the Black Prince though there are many theories on the reasoning behind it.

One of the many reasons for the recent surge of the royal family's popularity was the marriage of royal William to commoner Kate who is of mixed ancestry that includes French Huguenot, English and possibly but tenuous Jewish blood along with various social classes including northern mining stock.
Queen with other Commonwealth leaders Via
I read during the research that Queen Elizabeth referred to her mixed ancestry in an apology defending her position as head of the Commonwealth just before her coronation in 1953 but try as I might I can not find a copy of the speech. 

I am surprised that the royal family don't publicize these interesting parts of the family legacy which should surely only endear them to the Commonwealth further.  But in any case, I enjoyed learning something new and just wanted to share with those who might also be interested.

75 comments:

  1. Very interesting indeed. Queen Victoria did have very mulatto features, especially in that portrait by Sir Allan Ramsay. I think you and I know why the Royal family wouldn't publicize this part of family history. More than hiding anything (which they know will be unearthed anyway), they perhaps prefer to keep it under the radar coz they probably feel there's no real valid reason to talk about it--you know, as with any other family secrets: you know that it happened and it existed but it's best swept under the carpet until the carpet has to be cleaned and adjusted a bit, then you find out there's something under x

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    1. I just think that while I know the Queen rarely comments and actually isn't allowed to have an opinion she just says hello and talks about the weather. I get that but recently during the riots, half the tension was race and religious divide. As the civic leader of the nation, she could have reminded the nation of her roots and somehow been a symbolic leader not just for the Anglo Saxon Anglican population but for the section of society who don't bother with the royal family for certain reasons that I am sure we are all aware. She could have done a reissue of the coronation speech perhaps? x

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    2. Let's see how little Prince George will look like. Some of Queen V's looks may be passed down. You know how they skip several generations :D

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    3. Actually they were relieved when Charles married Diana because it was "fresh" blood and Prince Philipp is known to have said that he was happy she would bring some height to the Windsors!

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  2. I chose geography over history at school, but as the years have gone by its history that interest me more. This is a really interesting post, I've heard some of the facts before, it's the kind of thing parents of African descent want their children to know so they made me read about it, but its interesting reading from your perspective too.

    I'm not surprised the royal family don't publicise this; they're quite private people anyway and I don't think they see the relevance of sharing something like this. I guess they don't believe that a fact like this should determine how the family should be perceived or treated. It's good this info. Is out there for the public to understand though and not sworn to secrecy because of its nature xx

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    1. So interesting that you already knew this - the only time I heard this in passing was when one drunk toff told me that King Bertie's hair was a slight afro texture because he was a bit of a throwback but it just didn't click plus like i say that branch sort of bore me. I had to double check with my friend and ask her opinion to see if I was just "reaching". Like I mentioned to Chinwags - I think the Jubilee and Coronation anniversary would have been a nice segue to mentioning this. Plus they aren't exactly known for their PC views with their past links to Hitler and other PR disasters which is why they have alienated themselves to many albeit their recent surge in popularity( but mostly foreigners let's face it) But I am going to write to the Palace and ask for a copy of the speech where she apparently mentioned her mixed heritage! If anything I think it is a PR wasted opportunity! xx

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    2. I love that you are going to write to the Palace. Please write a post on the outcome as I don't know of such a speech.

      I understand what you are saying from a PR point of view, but personally I think if they did do it, it could quite easily backfire if their message wasn't on-point. I think it would almost feel as though they were trying too hard to gain the admiration of the public, by bringing up the issue of their racial roots. I think it is much more subtle to let the public find out indirectly from their own research/documentaries, rather than the royal family pushing this information on to us. Dunno, difficult one....

      I wouldn't have known this had my parents not made me read in to it. It's a piece of history that was discussed when I was younger alongside history about slavery and Martin Luther King's speech etc. xx

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    3. Yes I think I should because I would like to know if she did indeed refer to it at any juncture. I know what you mean that you can't just blurt it out but I think there has been more than ample occasion in her Jubilee reign where she could have mentioned it for racial issues with her being at the head of the Commonwealth and others. There was a program out there that said that British caucasians are probably one of the more mixed races out there and there are hardly any Anglo Saxons. There was a documentary about it and there was one totally racist guy, I need to get the name for you, but he found out that he was actually 1/16th black and it completely changed his views on everything. It can be quite a powerful thing. The Queen is only a leader in name and spirit but otherwise her family just seems to keep Hello magazine alive and in strong publication so perhaps she could use her power in good lasting use in concrete terms? But then again I can be very naive at times...x

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    4. FYI - Found the programme - I saw it ages ago and it was called
      100% english and the guy in question was Garry Bushell.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100%25_English

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    5. I think with all this revelation, one side is missing. this side is that of Prince Phillip. He is, after all a Battenberg (Mount Batten). His uncle was married to NADEJDA daughter of NATAYLA PUSHKINA, daughter of black Russian poet ALEKSANDR SERGEYEVICH PUSHKIN whose Great grandfather was IBRAHIM PETROVICH GANNIBAL, who was raised AS THE SON OF PETER THE GREAT of Russian. Some call IBRAHIM GANNIBAL a PROTEGE of Peter. However, the suffix "VICH", like "OVNA" refers to the son/daughter of a male person in Russian. Natayla married into the HOUSE OF NASSAU, to NIKOLAUS WILHELM, becoming COUNTESS MERENBERG. (NATAYLA'S mother's name was also NATAYLA). The Countess' grand-daughter was married to LOUIS MOUNTBATTEN the uncle of QUEEN'S CONSORT, PRINCE PHILLIP MOUNTBATTEN, DUKE OF EDINBURGH. So, there you have it on both sides.

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    6. I forgot to mention above that the GANNIBAL-PUSHKIN line, and therefore NATAYLA-NADEJDA-LOUIS MOUNTBATTEN LINE is BLACK. IBRAHIM GANNIBAL was captured/stolen from Africa, along with his older sister who drowned at sea. He was eventually brought to Russia and given to Peter the Great at the age around 9-12. Its all in the genes.

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    7. Thank you Waltrr for this in depth amazing information! I had read in my research something about this but didn't delve much do you have provided some names for further reading!

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  3. That is incredibly interesting! The 'whitewashing' of British History never ceases to amaze me.

    I reckon Charles II has a touch of the exotics about him!!

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    1. Charles the second looks a bit swarthy to me too!

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    2. Funny enough they did say that Charles was not considered attractive in his time at all. But he was a quarter Italian, French, and Dane, officially that is!

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    3. ... and the reason for your crush??!! :))

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    4. Isn't it obvious? He's rather gorgeous but also he was so intelligent and naturally curious and loved the arts. I would have gladly been his mistress!;)

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    5. I wouldnt be surprised if if pripqueen cgarlotte was a mulatto but i think king charles git his swarthibess from his meduci ancestors he was cute but he treated wojen terriblyh i think the royal damily wouldnt say anything about their ancestry i think the current royal family look like their hanoverian ancestors

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  4. Cool. I've always wondered how accurate portraits were, not only of royals but all historical figures. I've also always assumed, though uneducated, that the royal family was as interesting as a plain biscuit. But as everything, there are sure to be fascinating things to be learned if one would scratch the surface. I learned some interesting things today, thank you.

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    1. The Hanoverians were known to have all portraits rather improved - especially the regency kings, Goerge the IV was so vain and nowhere as good looking as his portraits! And Elizabeth the 1st was meant to have a huge receding hair line but they gave her more hair in her later portraits. Photoshopping tudor style :)

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  5. How interesting - I never knew that about Queen Charlotte, having only seen the 'whiter' portraits in the past. The Queen most likely has no blood connection to Charlotte though... the rumours about Queen Victoria being illegitimate and that her mother was encouraged to sleep around in the court as up until that point her parents had been unable to produce any children. I'm sure you know all that though already.
    There was a big thing in Tatler recently about the future Marquis of Bath's wife, as she is Black, and they claimed the first to the peerage, but obviously not....!
    King George's madness was a sad thing - so easily cured these days (according to my Dad, the psychiatrist).
    Off topic, but did you see that they announced that Richard 3rd had worms when he died? So much for rehabilitating his reputation!! xx

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    1. I did hear that about Queen Victoria and also I heard that the present monarch and her sister were the result of a little help and test tube babies so to speak. I think they had a spade of fertility problems for a while. But for all intents and purposes, there have been a few opportunities for goodwill to issue a statement or celebrate their diversity but I suppose they quite like their staid personas. Yes very sad about King George and they just kept bleeding him which only made it worse.
      Yes I did see the worms discovery - poor old Richard the 3rd. He needs a new PR team I reckon...But I say it's all Margaret Beaufort's fault anyway! xx

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  6. Very interesting! I had no idea.

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    1. Me neither which is why I thought I would write about it!

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  7. Fascinating read Naomi and well studied and put forward!.... Queen Vic probably had a thing about her mixed beginnings ... her era was VERY conservative! xx

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    1. Thanks Jenny - Queen Vic was really troubled and really had as we say now, "issues"...

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  8. Very interesting article about the royal family! So many things to learn about their history!
    xoxo

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    1. Yes I do love history and they are rather intertwined with it! x

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  9. Fascinating stuff. Things are never what they seem...

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    1. I am glad there are others who are interested in history like me! :)

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  10. had a sudden flash of (strange) inspiration that (forgive us, we've been reading Sci-Fi and Intense Technology Reports about string theory and parallel universes for who-we-are-in-RL's latest writing gig) there IS something beyond this - and they have internet connection and King Charles II has just swept into the dining room for supper (early sitting - he's hungry) and said, "See! I'm STILL sexy."

    *suddenlooktocamera*

    too strange?

    also love your clear diction when it comes to How History is Re-written/drawn.

    indeed....

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    1. You are funny TG! He still is and he would have so loved in the interweb...Always a pleasure to have you visit x

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  11. Very interesting post. I love looking at the portraits at these great estates. They always fascinate me. Too bad there was no photography at the time. I agree the royals should capitalize on their mixed ancestry !

    xxKim

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    1. Would you have loved to see proper photos!! I am just so curious and perhaps it is also a physiognomy thing where you see if there is any corelation. I do love knowing the story behind the portraits as well! xx

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  12. It really is weird that they don't publicize more of this, they would definitely be received more warmly. Not that they aren't loved at the moment, the new baby did a great job of swaying the public on the royal family's side again I think.:) But it's funny that you posted this now - I've just watched Django and I've been thinking a lot a bout slavery and how it ended a lot sooner here in Europe than in the States. I had no idea about the Anti-Saccharite cause and it's kind of reassuring to know that people like that existed...

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    1. Yes the royal family is truly going through a spike in popularity but then again weddings and babies are proven formula winners which is why in the soaps people always get divorced so we can wed them again. Yes I did wonder though how America is a lot more hung up about its past with slavery than Europe. But then again Europe never had proper segregation. It is good to know that even back then there were people who were civic and moral and not everyone was backwards!

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  13. Such an interesting post, as alway!!!!! I have been "reading" and leafing through a book called "Royal Englad" this summer. It was a present of some friends who live in Buckingham. I was fascinated by it and refreshened my English history knowledge! Apart from the very well known Catholic Mary and others that you mention, I found Edward VII, queen victoria's son, so funny, jolly, "commonner" in his behaviour. He was a real viveur!!!! Just have to find out more about him!!!
    have a great day!!!

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    1. Thanks ordinette! Yes Bertie was renown for having an afro quality to his hair. He seemed to rebel against his mother but then again who could blame him!! English history is great fun indeed :)

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  14. great research Ms CSW ! Thanks for a great read...more of those please. Ciao xx M

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  15. Thanks for this informative and fascinating post!! After reading this, I ended up spending the better part of an hour reading about Queen Charlotte and her relatives on the internet. I did see "The Madness of King George", and thought it was no wonder he eventually died in such poor health. It was interesting to read about how his son, Prince Edward (Duke of Kent, and father of Queen Victoria), has so much to do with the early history of Canada.

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    1. I must say that my knowledge of Canadian history is rather limited and I really must learn more about it and I am glad you brought up the ties bc from this end one tends to forget that Canada is still commonwealth!! ( like Australia is...) :)

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  16. That painting is beautiful! Thanks for sharing this!
    xo
    Sharon

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  17. Wow - that is incredible and yes your first observation that she is mixed race is really obvious in that picture. She was very beautiful, this is just so fascinating

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    1. It's funny bc my neighbour thought so too so I was wondering how it just doesn't get mentioned when it has pride of place in one of the state rooms!

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    2. So many secrets in the royal family...

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  18. I was in the middle of commenting on your post and we lost power because of a wild spring storm. Anyway, just wanted to say that this is a fascinating read. I didn't know the ancestry of Queen Charlotte before your post but it doesn't really surprise me,for as long as people have been travelling there have been inter-racial 'marriages' and there is no reason why the royal families would be exempt. What puzzles me is why and when the white washing of royal history began. I found this article which you may already know, but it has some interesting information on the Ethiopian connection, via Russian poet Pushkin, to the Mountbatten family. http://www.the-latest.com/african-ancestry-royals I would love to know where that apologia from the Queen can be read too! Gallivanta

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    1. Oh wow - it sounds so cinematic - a whoosh and the lights are off!
      Yes I do think that Queen Vic had a lot to do with it and we must remember that Queen Charlotte was the first queen of a new line - the Hanovers were a weak claim to the throne - 49 other closer relatives were passed up due to the new act of succession which prohibited catholics reigning. That made the eigible potential spouses limited to a few northern european kingdoms hence the incestuous tradition of cousins marrying cousins over and over again! But thanks so much for the link Gallivanta! I find genealogy so interesting so this is great fodder!

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    2. Not sure about cinematic; but it was dramatic. We haven't had a storm like that in decades.

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  19. Fascinating. I just hope that when my portrait is painted, it is of a younger, more tanned, thinner version of myself.

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    1. Ha! I think I would just catfish completely ;) Photoshop might not be enough...

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  20. My local paper(Canberra Times)always used to run a funeral notice in the personal columns about Richard 3 along the lines of Richard 3 last English King of England died Battle of Bosworth etc. I don't recall seeing it this year. Do read the most wonderful book about Richard 3 "Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey. You won't regret it.

    I loved this post, by the way.

    Sue


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    1. Oh Sue - Will definitely check out the book - love history myself. Did you see the white queen that was on the bbc? or perhaps it didn't reach Oz yet? If it comes please do watch it - such fun. Thanks for the tip Sue!

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  21. It is funny how people just post anything to feed conspiracies and suppositions. There was no "Black Branch of the Portuguese Royal Family" if you read closely, they said that Margarita de Sousa y Castro was a descendant of Madragana, who was a MOOR, as in ARAB woman. Not black, however if I remind Europeans considered "Dark" a person who was white with black hair. "Tall dark and handsome" means still a white person. So the fact that they referred to Madragana as black, when she was a Moor is probably an exaggeration, much like the Spanish and Portuguese did at that time. Good try though.

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    1. This wasn't a "try".

      I don't think there is anything to suggest a "conspiracy". That denotes that there is something wrong with being of mixed ancestry. It is something of historical fact and even the present Queen is said to have confirmed her mixed ancestry. Also, there are historical records and accounts let alone portraits! Queen Philippa is a harder one to prove but Queen Caroline is pretty much historical record. I just didn't learn of it until I went to the palace. I think the portraits were more than enough to suffice of to demonstrate her African ancestry.

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  22. With due respect, the speculation that the Portuguese King's mistress had been a moor was first put forward nearly 400 years after the fact with no corroborating evidence whatsoever. It is hearsay or gossip.

    Moors in southern Spain were primarily of arabic and berber (white) descent, so the claim of a possible negroid ancestry is bizarre.

    Queen Charlotte was 6 centuries removed from this one alleged moor who would have been just one of over 16,000 ancestors from the 13th century. In other words, the alleged moor comprised less that .006 percent of her ancestry. The possibility of this remote ancestor passing on any mitochondrial DNA over 20 generations later to Charlotte, much less that showing up in her phenotype is practically nil.

    A genealogist would politely call this speculation "unproven", and that would be being very polite.

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    1. Well, who knows for sure but there pare pictures to view and various portraits of her which show that she doesn't look fully Germanic. Records back then are not as now but her medical doctor further corroborated. Either way it isn't a huge matter is it? But something interesting at a certain point in history. But also any genealogist couldn't not politely say otherwise...

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    2. do you know where the basis of all race began? Africa! but r jus a another naive person who refuses to acknowledge the truth!

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    3. Yes! Portraits were romanticized back then. So in real life, she was likely darker. The Moors once ruled the Iberian Peninsula, and no the Berbers were not predominantly white. I don't know who told you that?

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  23. The portraits of her brothers are even more interesting.
    Hers brothers Charles 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ZiesenisKarlMecklenburg.jpg and George August http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1748_Georg_August.jpg look black to me.

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  24. Queen Mary of Scotland was black.

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  25. Why in God's name should I care whether Queen Charlotte has black blood or not. If she was proud of her ancestry it would not be any mystery today, we would all know and not be guessing. If she was ashamed of he black ancestry then I an ashamed of her. Further, the royal family have leached off the wealth created by black slaves for centuries and what have the ACTUALLY given back? The scales h=ve fallen off my eyes and I pray God it falls off many pof those who have commented above.

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    1. You don't need to care. I don't read about motor engines and tend not to force myself to read about them so I must say for your blood pressure you stop reading about the royal family.

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  26. Would this be the speech you're looking for?:

    https://youtu.be/S2pgmKeGEZg

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  27. I heard the royal family was jet black and lightened up over time as Britain was ruled by no whites till the. 16th century.

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  28. Oh I also like your blog post it is real interesting. Thanks for the info I would love to read that speech. I heard King James who commissioned. The writing of the Bible was also black. Go figure.

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  29. For your nay Sayers -Moor means black.

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  30. I also heard from a speech of the famous American named Dick Gregory that Victoria was a GUY. And her children were all adopted.

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  31. Just because she was described as "mulatto" does not mean that she was. My great-grandmother was an octoroon. Queen Charlotte likely was, too. That means, 7 white great-grandparents and one black one. She likely was part of the legacy of Moorish rule in Portugal. Yes! She was descended form the Portuguese royal family.

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  32. Take a good look at Queen Elizabeth ll.........during her Coronation......she looked like a light skinned black,woman...

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  33. This is very interesting! I have never knew this... I don't think I have seen Queen Charlotte's pictures before but looking at the images it is obvious she had some African roots. Thanks for sharing :)

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  34. Have all of you notice that the present prince Charles (son of the present queen) have his eyes very close to the nose, and not symmetrically distance and in proper proportion like most European Nordics are ? Prince Charles eyes are very similar to those Japanese macaques or (snow monkeys) and this trait is very common in Asian people, there is also an Asian strain in the royal family, after thousand of years of leaving in the continent and the subsequent invasions and mixtures. nobody could have escape a mixture of some sort.

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